Making a valid will helps you to identify your intended beneficiaries and the specific portion of your estate that each one will receive. If you do not create a will or you do not follow strict guidelines about how to form a will, your estate will be subject to the Succession Law Reform Act. This may result in unintended consequences. For example, you may intend for your spouse and children to receive equal shares of your estate. However, the Succession Law Reform Act requires your spouse to receive the first $200,000 of your estate. Any inheritance that your children receive may be held by the court until they turn 18.
Determine Your Intentions
Consider what you want your will to accomplish. For example, you may want to leave money to a charity, name a guardian for minor children and appoint a personal friend as the person to settle your estate. Give thought to considerations such as:
- appointing an alternative executor
- bequeathing certain property to a particular beneficiary
- establishing a trust for property given to minor beneficiaries
- naming successor beneficiaries in the event that the primary beneficiaries predecease you
Introduce the Will
Write in the first paragraph that the document is your last will and testament, and identify yourself and your address. Canadian law requires that the will be in writing in order for it to be valid.
You must be at least 18 years old and be of sound mind to make a valid will in Ontario. There are exceptions if a minor is married, in the Canadian armed forces or is a sailor at sea. Sound mind means that you do not suffer from an impairment that affects your ability to understand what you are doing.
Name an Executor
Appoint the person who will settle your estate – the executor – and that individual's address. List a successor or alternate executor in case your executor predeceases you or chooses not to serve in this capacity.
Give your executor the right to pay the debts that you owe at the time of your death to creditors. List specific items that you want to bequeath to a beneficiary, such as an antique watch to your nephew. Include the beneficiary's address.
Include a Residuary Clause
Write a paragraph about how you want any remainder of your estate divided by your beneficiaries besides your specific bequeaths. For example, you may state that you wish to leave the residue of your estate to your spouse.
Write a Conclusion
Write at the end of the document that you are signing the will. State the number of pages that your will consists of and the date.
Have Witnesses Sign
Ask two witnesses to observe you signing the will. The witnesses should not be people who will benefit from the will, such as anyone receiving cash or an asset. The two witnesses and you should all be together in the same room at the same time when you each sign the will.
While Ontario law does allow for holographic – or handwritten – unwitnessed wills, the rules are stricter, requiring that the testator write everything in his own handwriting. Having a witness also may help avoid anyone contesting the will.